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8th September 2023

Waitrose welcomes top UK chefs to its Food Innovation Studio

Written by: David Foad
The Craft Guild of Chefs recently brought together the finalists in its National Chef of the Year and Young National Chef of the Year competitions for a day of learning, innovation and inspiration at the Waitrose Food Innovation Studio.

The annual mentor day brought competitors, judges, organisers and sponsors under one roof to prepare for the final which will take place at the University of West London on Tuesday, October 10th.

Chefs were inspired from the start with demonstrations for the senior competitors from chair of judges, Kenny Atkinson and current title holder, Ben Murphy, using lamb from Lumina and seasoning from Essential Cuisine.

The young chef competitors enjoyed watching former winner of NCOTY, Simon Hulstone work with Seafood from Norway and Sodiaal to create a stunning pan-roasted Norwegian cod dish, before they took on a skills test challenge in fishmongery.

The chefs also enjoyed a series of tasting workshops with the event’s food and drink sponsors - Essential Cuisine, Lumina, Valrhona, Sodiaal, Seafood from Norway and Hallgarten & Novum Wines. These were designed to help finalists learn more about the products and inspire their future menus.

A delicious lunch was served for the guests with a menu designed by Martyn Lee, Waitrose executive chef and his food innovation team. The dishes were a collaboration between Waitrose ingredients and produce from all the food and drink sponsors.

Finalists were then pushed into the spotlight for their official National Chef of the Year and Young National Chef of the Year photos and videos which has become known as a traditional part of the countdown to the final.

Another regular feature of the mentoring experience is the chefs selecting their crockery for the final using the expertise of long-standing supporter of the competition, Churchill.

The afternoon saw a thought-provoking panel discussion which addressed some of the key industry issues with input from Kenny Atkinson, Lisa Goodwin-Allen, Paul Mannering from HIT, Gary King from The Evolve Group, Martyn Lee from Waitrose and Claire Bosi from Chef Publishing.

Competition director, David Mulcahy, food innovation & sustainability director at Sodexo UK and Ireland, said: “The mentor day has become a vital part of the programme as we work hard to ensure the chefs feel ready and prepared for the final.

“By connecting with each other, meeting judges and working with sponsors it helps put them at ease before the pressure builds for the cook-off. This year was one of our most inspiring mentor days yet as chefs got to work so closely with sponsors and hear from Kenny Atkinson and Lisa Goodwin-Allen who will be leading the judges to find this year’s winner.”

Will Torrent, senior development and innovation chef at Waitrose commented: “It was such an honour to host this mentor day at the Waitrose Food Innovation Studio. To have so many talented, ambitious and successful chefs under one roof, learning about not only our products but the work we do to innovate and research future trends has been incredible.

“We hope every finalist has taken something away that will help them not only in the competition but in their future careers. I am now really looking forward to revealing who will be crowned this year’s winner.”

Finalists in both competitions are now looking forward to the final which will followed by an Awards evening at the iconic Hippodrome Leicester Square, where the winner will be revealed.